Suspected US airstrike kills ICRC worker in Yemen

Published Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Yemeni man working for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed by a suspected US airstrike in Abyan province on Wednesday while carrying out humanitarian work, the agency said.

Yemeni troops backed by US air power last week retook several towns in the southern province of Abyan that Islamist militants allied to al-Qaeda had seized last year.

The troops are supported by the United States, which has controversially been using drones in the fight, often killing civilians and causing local rage.

"The International Committee of the Red Cross is deeply shocked and dismayed by the death of one of its staff members, Hussein Saleh, who was killed this morning while on duty in the north of Abyan governorate," the ICRC said in a statement.

"It was an airstrike. We have no additional details whatsoever," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said in Geneva.

A local official told Reuters the Yemeni air force had conducted the strike that killed the ICRC worker, adding that it had carried out at least three separate air strikes on Wednesday.

Yemeni officials often claim to carry out airstrikes that are actually conducted by the US to shield Washington from blame.

But the US has increased its air raids in Yemen in recent months, as it pushes the local government into an offensive to crush Islamists in the south.

The local official said the aid worker had been trying to contact al-Qaeda militants in order to negotiate the release of a French co-worker who was kidnapped in April.

On Tuesday in Geneva, UN human rights investigator Christof Heyns called on the Obama administration to justify its policy of assassinating rather than capturing al-Qaeda or Taliban suspects, increasingly with the use of unmanned drone aircraft that also kill civilians.

Saleh, who was 35, and three other staff members had been assessing the humanitarian situation in Abyan, which has been severely affected by the recent fighting.

Eric Marclay, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, said Saleh's wife was expecting their fifth child.

"He was a very motivated and devoted staff member. He played a tremendously crucial role within his team, helping hundreds of thousands of people in the south, and lost his life while performing humanitarian work."

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters)

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